What's Behind Bush's Short Notice on Deadline for New Rules?

Charlie Savage and Robert Pear in today's NYT "Administration Moves to Avert a Late Rules Rush," report that on May 9, Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff, issued a memorandum to agency heads without public announcement that they must propose any new regulations by June 1 and finish final regulations by November 1. Mr. Bolten’s order will affect only potential rules controlled by the Bush administration. It does not apply to independent agencies or to pending regulations with deadlines imposed by federal statutes or court orders. The memorandum also does not prevent agencies from continuing work on potential rules that are not intended to be made final until after the next president takes office.

Bolton wrote that the government should
resist the historical tendency of administrations to increase regulatory activity in their final months....We must recognize that the burden imposed by new regulations is cumulative and has a significant effect on all Americans.
He added that the administration would make exceptions for rules that missed the deadline in “extraordinary circumstances,” but failed to define what that might mean.

Officials told the reporters they were caught unaware and described a flurry of activity as they sought to get proposals approved for publication in the Federal Register by the deadline.

The deadline will avoid rules which can be reversed by the next President. Many regulations take effect 60 days after they have been issued. After Bush took office in 2001, he froze hundreds of pending regulations issued by Clinton's administration. Clinton had done the same thing regarding Bush I regs.

White House spokeswoman, Emily Lawrimore, said in an e-mail message,
We’re not shutting down work on important regulatory matters after June 1st. We’re just making clear that we will continue to embrace the thorough and high standards of the regulatory review process as we near the end of the administration.
Sally Katzen, Clinton's top regulatory aide from 1993 to 1998 said,
There are good-government reasons to do what they are doing . But it has the added advantage of providing an excuse for not doing something they don’t want attributed to them, and for speeding up the things they want to lock in before the next administration.
According to the reporters,
the June 1 deadline to start the public comment process places at risk of delay scores of potential regulations, including protections for the environment and rules on workplace safety and public health.
How exactly are the agency's supposed to speed up proposals, some which run for hundreds of pages, with just three weeks notice? , some of which run for hundreds of pages, with three weeks’ notice? And are the exceptions one final way to promote an agenda?

As Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy for OMB Watch, noted,
They get to define emergency.
He predicted that the administrationwould make it a priority to complete rules that relax regulations on industrial pollution and other burdens on business and rules that give businesses more flexibility than Mr. Bush’s successor might, especially if the next president is a Democrat.
On other things, they could do "Sorry, we can’t do anything on this ” because of the deadline.

John D. Walke, director of the clean air program at Natural Resources Defense Council, said the memo intended to
shut down regulation for the remainder of the Bush administration. Until the bitter end,” Mr. Walke said, “the administration will pursue deregulation on behalf of polluting industries and avoid regulation that would protect public health, welfare and the environment. This memo is a codification of that agenda.
Some of the order placed at risk of delay include those backed by business.

The construction industry, for example, has been waiting for years for the Labor Department to issue updated safeguards to prevent crane accidents like the one in New York City on Friday. Industry and labor negotiators agreed to standards in 2004, but the administration has yet to issue them. Robert Weiss, the vice president of Cranes Inc., a provider of cranes in New York and a member of the negotiating committee that reached the agreement, said that the rule “could save many lives” but that he did not know how the White House memorandum might affect its prospects.

And Jeffrey Barach, vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said he feared that the deadline could jeopardize some rules that food manufacturers want. For example, the food industry has been pressing for more stringent requirements on farms to lower the risk that the food supply might be contaminated by crops that have been genetically modified to produce pharmaceuticals. The Department of Agriculture is planning to issue such a proposed rule in June, too late for the deadline.

“If it doesn’t go through now, it will be delayed,” Mr. Barach said. “There is already, out in the field, developmental work on pharmaceutical crops, which is expected to increase. So any delay is of concern to us.”

William L. Kovacs, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, praised the order.
This is a gracious way of leaving office. The White House is saying, "We will control the regulatory process so the next administration won’t end up with a lot of regulations being challenged in court in its first days in office.”